Science fiction and fantasy are interesting genres in that they encourage narratives free from association with real–world logic, philosophy, or science. Pretty much anything goes in the land of lightsabers and lazerbeams, and that type of liberal mentality can encourage the worst creative tendencies in otherwise talented writers, especially when it comes to something as simple––and seemingly trivial––as naming characters. I, along with many others, went to go see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire over Thanksgiving break, and while I enjoyed the movie, I found myself spit–taking my liquid popcorn butter frequently as straight–faced actors called each other things like “Effie Trinket” or “President Coriolanus (Ha! Anus!) Snow.”
While the complaint may sound petty, the weird stupidity of these names actually took me out of the story so much that it kind of ruined the otherwise oppressive dystopian atmosphere built around author Suzanne Collins’ impressively realized world.
I like to call the trend towards dumber fantasy names the Slartibartfast Phenomenon, and it’s frustrating to see it occur with increasing frequency in literature and film I legitimately love. It’s easier to approach fantasy fiction, a genre usually reserved for “nerds,” when it drops the pretension and goes for something reasonable, or at least easy to spell. (It was a breath of fresh air to learn that the alien protagonist in the film District 9 was simply named Christopher Johnson.)
So here’s a list of 5 egregiously awful character names from popular science fiction and fantasy for all of you circle–jerking fanboys/girls to complain about:
1.) Plutarch Heavensbee (The Hunger Games)
Holy shit. Plutarch. Fucking. Heavensbee. As a small caveat, I haven’t read any of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy, but, Jesus Christ, that name is the epitome of heinous in any context. Here we have a shadowy, sadistic figure of immense power who has a moniker that sounds like a Shakespearean character run through the Wu–Tang Clan name generator. There’s no connective tissue to the Gamesmaster's name: Plutarch recalls Greek influence, but Heavensbee sounds like a brand of chapstick. It doesn’t help that Phillip Seymour–Hoffman, dough–faced and stern, absolutely nails the role of Plutarch, giving gravitas to a character who would’ve been better left on the cutting room floor.
2.) Hizdahr zo Loraq, Fourteenth of That Noble Name in the Ghiscari Royal Line (Game of Thrones)
I get mad just trying to type out the words Hizdahr zo Loraq properly, and it doesn’t help that he’s such a big fucking chode in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. For those of you that only watch the Game of Thrones television show on HBO (plebeians), you’ve yet to be exposed to his Regal Chodeliness, but be forewarned that his storyline in the upcoming season is tremendously frustrating and represents just how bad GRRM is at putting any forward momentum into his series’ narrative. There’s also a troubling sense of “other” to Hizdahr zo Loraq, and the Ghiscari people as a whole, as if Martin believes that anyone who isn’t from the white, Anglo–centric continent of Westeros has to have a name and personality that play like a cardboard cut–out of Middle Eastern/North African stereotypes.
3.) Voldemort/ practically anyone from the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter)
It’s a small blessing that the antagonist of J.K. Rowling’s phenomenal fantasy series is usually referred to as “He–Who–Must–Not–Be–Named,” because “Voldemort” sounds like a strain of itchy foot fungus. Names like Lord Voldemort––along with Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore––display Rowling’s worst stylistic choices in an otherwise well–realized universe. While the excessively goofy character names worked well when the Potter series was strictly kiddy fare, this became less true as the novels––and subsequent films––took on darker, adult themes of totalitarianism and racial genocide. A story can only get so grim and “GRR, SERIOUS” when the greatest terror to be fathomed from the utterance of Bellatrix Lestrange’s name is confusion over how to pronounce it.
4.) General Grievous (Star Wars)
This entry is bound to be a generally grievous one *slide whistle*. General Grievous is one in a long line of terribly on–the–nose Star Wars character names produced from the pale, fleshy neck pouch of man–lizard George Lucas. Calling the bad guy in your film General Grievous is about two steps away from calling him “Captain Badguy” or “Mr. Jerkface," as "grievous" is literally a synonym for “deplorable” or “heinous.” No one seems to have any great love for the Star Wars prequels, and the unsubtle likes of General Grievous and Darth Maul (Darth Mangle?) show an apex of laziness in character creation and design that is as frustrating as it is funny.
5.) Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch
Smooth–featured otter–person Benedict Cumberbatch has a name so otherworldly that there are entire blogs on the Internet dedicated to misspelling it in as many ways as possible. He is the deity of gloriously goofy names, and his silliness expands beyond the realm of fact and fiction into an all–consuming nether of absurdity. The glory of the Cumberbatch is inescapable; submit to be a Cumberbitch today.
HONORABLE RUNNERS–UP: Stacker Pentecost, Raleigh Beckett/ Pacific Rim; Renesmee Cullen, Bella Swan–Cullen/ Twilight; Jace Wayland, Magnus Bane/ The Mortal Instruments